Day hike: Lughnasa at Great Meadows

Dad and I decided to take a walk in Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge this afternoon. We didn’t walk very far or very fast, though. The recent cold front brought a big wave of fall migrants to Massachusetts, and we spent less time walking than we did looking at sandpipers, plovers, egrets, and heron.

We strolled slowly down to the Concord River along the dike between the upper impoundment and the lower impoundment. I’m sure the slanting light of a perfect, golden summer day made the marshlands look especially beautiful, but I was too busy looking at the birds. While Dad was busy taking a photo of a Solitary Sandpiper feeding in the mud close to the trail, I watched a Spotted Sandpiper bobbing and pulling loose molting feathers out of its breast.

On the way back up the dike, a pleasant woman asked us if we would stand behind that camera over there because they were filming a segment for the Nova public television program (I had thought the two men were just another pair of wildlife photographers), or if we wanted to be in the shot when the joggers came along she’d ask us to sign releases. We stood where she told us. Dad found another bird to try to photograph. I got into an animated conversation with a woman about shorebird identification and migration. After ten minutes, all three of us forgot about the cameramen, and the nice woman from public television had to ask us again to step back, which we did. Apparently one of the joggers they were filming was some famous woman marathoner, but I never did get a firm identification on her.

Someone had a Wilson’s Snipe in his telescope, and Dad and I got a good look at it. The light was absolutely perfect, but Dad and I were getting hungry so we strolled on back to the car and went to dinner. I dropped Dad off at his condo, and as I was driving home I realized today is Lughnasa, halfway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, the time of year when you really start to notice that the sun is setting earlier in the evening. The excitement of watching the first big surge of the fall migration makes the loss of daylight a little easier for me to accept.

Less than a mile in two and a half hours.

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